The physiology of skiing and alpine
For those of you that attended the 8-week ski/snowboard fit progression, the time has come where we put all the hard work on the hill. I want to explain to you all how and why the Quadzillas, Leg Blasters, and Step-Ups (for the ski-moers) will make you ski and snowboard faster than years before. Of course, I am going to do this as scientifically as possible and explain the physiologically crossovers between the exercises we are doing at the gym and the slopes.
First thing that I need to explain about skiing/snowboarding is that it is very demanding anaerobic sport. This means that when we are skiing/snowboarding that our muscles are working at such a high level that the body cannot process the amount of metabolic byproduct produced in a muscular contraction. This is what causes that heavy burning sensation in the legs after a long run down Rendezvous Bowl. However, after the progression there should be several physiological adaptions that have occurred in the body to offset that sensation.
I actually touched on this subject the last time I wrote a blog. When the body works anaerobically we create lactate acid, which is broken down into hydrogen ions. When masses of hydrogen ions accumulate we get the burning sensation in our legs. However, we can delay this sort of thing by training at the point when lactate starts to accumulate. When you train consistently at the point of lactate accumulation the body will adapt to the high fluxes of hydrogen ions and become better at processing them out of the body. Essentially what that means, is that we are able recover from intense bouts of exercise faster.
We tend to have a lot of this kind of training in the ski/snowboard fit program. We complete intense anaerobic exercises to induce the onset of lactate accumulation and then allow the body to recover. I’m sure all of you that have participate in the program have felt a change in how much you can push yourself through the anaerobic bouts and be able to maintain the same sort of repetition through all the rounds. This is an indication that your body is able to process the amount of lactate accumulating in the blood without leaving behind large amounts of hydrogen ions to inhibit muscular contractions.
The second thing about skiing and snowboarding is that they put a lot of eccentric force on the body when you make a turn. An eccentric force is a fancy way of describing what the muscle is doing in order to complete the action. When you make an arc on skis or a snowboard, you create forces that push you into the snow and if you are not strong enough you collapse and fall. For the muscles to complete this action properly, the muscle fibers in the quads and glutes lengthen to create force. This is similar to when we do Quadzillas or Leg Blasters we must resist the forces that want to pull us to the ground by having the quads and glutes lengthen and generate power through each repetition.
Secondary adaptions to this eccentric training are promoting muscle hypertrophy and increases of stored ATP-CP. Muscle hypertrophy simple means the working muscle fibers have an increase in density (A.K.A. you have bigger muscles). When a muscle fiber becomes denser they have the ability to generate more force and power when they contract. With skiing and snowboarding more force and power can mean being quicker from turn to turn or even making bigger more controlled turns down bowls and couloirs. The ATP-CP stores work hand in hand with muscle hypertrophy. ATP-CP is a fast acting energy substrate used during exercise. They are most prominently used within the first 15 – 30 seconds of exercise. When there is a larger surplus of these molecules, the process of glycolysis can be deferred for a bit longer. Therefore, offsetting the process of going through the process lactate accumulation. When you are able to make more powerful and faster turns from the muscle hypertrophy the ATP-CP adaptations will help provide energy for each turn and maintain the same intensity for longer.
No lets talk about you guys participating in the ski mountaineering portion of the program. Aside, doing seamless amount of Step-Ups you guys have developed several adaptations of your own. The ski-mo programing caters to the more aerobic side of skiing and mountaineering. When hiking or skinning up the steep face of a mountain it is obvious that a strong aerobic base is needed. With the ski-mo progression the biggest thing was seeing that the average pace of the athletes increased even with more step-ups. This is an indication that your body has adapted a better step-up economy. What that means is that you are able to maintain a certain pace and use less energy doing it. So long story short, you should be able to hike continuously at the same pace you were doing your step ups at.
In conclusion, all of the participating athletes are scientific proven to ski harder and faster this winter. Now you just have to your best to maintain all of your new adaptions as you move through the winter. Maintaining your condition is so important for such a demanding season. As many of you know, becoming deconditioned can happen very quickly if you don’t move in the right direction. As always, thanks for reading and ski fast and smart!
See you in the Mountains,